So you are fresh out of college with an advanced degree in business or you are looking to enter the consulting world and truly show your value. There is a plethora of consulting firms to choose from. Visit any major or secondary market in the US and you will find many firms to apply your tradecraft with.

With that said, it is a very good idea to be diligent and thoughtful about which consulting firms you choose to pursue While there are many great consulting firms out there to choose from, there are also many masquerading as consulting firms when they are actually simply an outsourcing firm.

The best firms have designed ways to do both strategic businesses consulting yet handle the implementation of their strategic plans with clients. There is a danger here that needs to be kept top of mind. Many firms that one had a strong base of strategic work have traded this for a simple outsourcing approach. The rationale is the outsourcing work is more transactional so the sales cycle is shorter and the revenue comes faster. The danger is these same firms trade their reputation and their ability to command top rates when they move away from the strategic, it becomes a race to the bottom.

Smart consulting firms understand there is a balance between the two. They understand their largest, most successful and visible work began with a strategic consulting engagement which led to a long cycle of implementation work. The strategic work drives the reputation and market perception which in turn feeds on itself helping the firm grow.

Many simple outsourcing firms believe it is easy to move from outsourcing to strategic consulting. What they find is a mountain that is very hard to climb. The reason for this is market perception, if you are known as outsourcing firm in the market it is very hard to change that perception. Not impossible but it takes time, investment and probably different resources than you currently have on the bus.

Let’s look at the characteristics of the best consulting firms.

Mission Clarity

The best consulting firms realize the cant be everything to everybody, so they don’t try. They have the viewpoint that their work is not for everybody and that’s ok.

The best consulting firms choose and develop their core competencies with care and work very hard to cultivate and build teams that are the very best within this core. If you try to be a jack of all trades the net effect is marginalizing your overall value and generalizing your approach to the market. If you are seen as the handyman of the consulting world your perceived value plummets.

Strategy Minded

The best consulting firms take the necessary time to develop their market strategy, what value they will deliver to clients and their internal strategy. They know precisely who their customer is and how they will have a positive change impact.

They develop this overall strategy tied to mission clarity and back it up with near, mid and long term plans to achieve. Yes, plans change based on market realities but they never lose sight of the strategic goals. They play the long game balancing the tactical against the overall long game goal.

Team Oriented

The best consulting firms take a team approach to selling and delivering for Clients. They realize that the singular rock star approach generates only temporary buzz and celebrity but it’s the team that is sustainable.

When you employ the team approach every member is free and able work within their strengths and the workload is balanced. The team approach allows for more creativity as each member sees the problem from their position on the field and brings their unique perspective to problem-solving. They also take the one team one project approach which allows them to totally focus on delivering client value.

Value Focused

The best consulting firms take the necessary time to understand the overall project and what the business impact is for the client. They understand how the work they are completing is measured in terms of enhanced efficiency, cost reductions, revenue gains, headcount reductions, time to market, etc.

This changes the perspective of the delivery team and broadens their understanding. The field of view is bigger, they understand the overall business value which will have an impact on the design and delivery of their proposed solution.

Culture

The Best Consulting firms understand that having the right culture is paramount to meeting the strategic long game goals they have laid out. The culture is built on absolute trust, empathy, transparency, teamwork and an unquenchable desire to deliver the best every day and on every project.

Insane Training

The Best Consulting firms understand their people are their biggest asset and keeping the team up to date and strong is critical. This training is not just focused on technical skills but also includes soft skills and value training.

Teaching the team about business is just as important as training them on the technical skills they need to deliver the project. If they don’t understand why they are doing what they are doing the value of the overall effort gets lost in the translation.

Conclusion

There is no doubt a lot of firms to choose from in the consulting world. Take the time and choose wisely the firms you want to pursue. When evaluated properly the result will be a firm you love working for and the level of job satisfaction will be at its peak.

Your career and your customer deserve it.

Kevin Decker is the founder and managing partner of Hyper Velocity Group. A boutique consultancy focused on helping clients achieve their goals through strategic market planning, creative and design, and content development to tell your unique story.